WASHINGTON (KNWA/KFTA) — A Gravette man charged for his actions during the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol filed multiple pretrial motions on September 22.
On October 6, the prosecution responded by filing multiple, lengthy briefs opposing those. Richard Barnett, 61, is facing a host of charges and his trial is set to begin on December 12.
Barnett’s defense team made one motion asking for a count to be dismissed due to “failure to state an offense,” alleging that the government took a relevant statute “completely out of context.” The prosecution’s response explains that count one against Barnett charges him with “obstruction of an official proceeding” related to the certification of electoral votes that day.
The filing details Barnett’s activities on January 6, including how he “pushed his way into the U.S. Capitol through the east side Rotunda doors with a crowd of rioters while carrying a U.S. flag and a ZAP Hike N Strike 950,000 Volt Stun Gun.” He then made his way to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office, where he put his feet up on her desk and left “menacing handwritten notes.”
“This is my house, y’all maced me in my own house,” Barnett reportedly yelled at police officers later. “This is gonna get real bad.” The motion states that Barnett also mentioned “this civil war” and that he used a bullhorn to speak to a crowd, informing them that “we took back our house, and I took Nancy Pelosi’s office!”
The government also explains that while driving back to Arkansas, Barnett turned off location services on his phone, used only cash, and kept his face covered. He also said that agents investigating his house wouldn’t find much because he is a “smart man.”
A search of his house yielded the clothes he wore that day and packaging for the stun gun.
The government filing continues by explaining the legal standard required for the charge against Barnett, noting that an indictment is sufficient if it “contains the elements of the offense charged and fairly informs a defendant of the charge against which he must defend.”
The validity of an indictment is not a question of whether it could have been more definite and certain. And an indictment need not inform a defendant ‘as to every means by which the prosecution hopes to prove that the crime was committed.’Government opposition brief, USA vs. Richard Barnett, October 6
The brief also refers to other multiple cases arising from January 6. “Every district judge to have reached the issue, including this court, has concluded that Congress’ certification of the Electoral College is an ‘official proceeding.'” It also addresses three specific arguments made in Barnett’s filing, citing relevant case law to refute those points.
The government also presents multiple statutes supporting its stance that the certification of the Electoral College vote is an ‘official proceeding,’ including background about relevant federal laws and previous cases. It also refutes the defense’s assertion that one statute, Section 1512(c)(2), is “unconstitutionally vague.”
“A statute is not unconstitutionally vague simply because its applicability is unclear at the margins,” the prosecution states, “or because a reasonable jurist might disagree on where to draw the line between lawful and unlawful conduct in particular circumstances.”
“Even trained lawyers may find it necessary to consult legal dictionaries, treatises, and judicial opinions before they may say with any certainty what some statutes may compel or forbid,” it adds. The prosecution also stated that the defense was unable to cite a single case in support of its “arbitrary application” argument.
The second government response addresses Barnett’s motion to dismiss all charges or to change the venue of the trial.
“The defendant fails to establish that he ‘cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial’ in this district,” the response states. “The Constitution provides that ‘the trial of all Crimes shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed,'” it adds.
It explains that “the primary safeguard of the right to an impartial jury” is “an adequate voir dire to identify unqualified jurors,” and continues by stating that the best course of action is to proceed to jury selection to determine if potential jurors have been influenced by “pretrial publicity,” as Barnett’s prior motion alleges.
The defense had specifically referred to a statement by President Biden on September 1, arguing that his remarks are “akin to an order for D.C. juries to find defendants guilty of any and every charge because they are insurrectionists and terrorists.” That defense filing also said that comments from the Select Committee “mirrored those remarks.”
The defendant cites no authority for the proposition that pretrial publicity can disqualify all prospective jurors in every single one of the United States’ judicial districts and, therefore, prevent a defendant from being tried anywhere for his crimes.Government opposition brief, USA vs. Richard Barnett, October 6
The response notes that a D.C. Circuit Court found that a change of venue was not even required in the Watergate scandal although some of the publicity was “hostile in tone and accusatory in content,” and “national in reach.”
“Scandal at the highest levels of the federal government is not simply a local crime,” it says. The government continues by citing a host of high-profile cases that did not require a change of venue, including the Boston Marathon bombing, the World Trade Center bombing and one of the 9/11 conspirator’s trials.
“The defendant fails to explain how the President’s remarks make his case more difficult to obtain an impartial jury than other high-profile cases involving acts of violence,” the brief states. “There is no reason to believe that the remarks will create such a degree of bias against the defendant throughout the nation that an impartial jury cannot be selected in any district, as the defendant asserts.”
It adds that Barnett “has generated substantial pretrial publicity of his own,” citing an interview with NewsMax that “was broadcast on multiple news channels and remains available on YouTube.” Barnett also spoke with NBC News and KNWA, and his attorney appeared on CNN, discussing the defendant.
“It would be a perverse result to dismiss or transfer the defendant’s case as a result of publicity, when he has actively fanned that flame himself.”
—Prosecution in USA vs. Richard Barnett, October 6
Again, the government lists an assortment of prior cases, including some heard by the Supreme Court, that support rejecting the defense motion for a change of venue. The response also notes the size of the potential juror pool, and observes that D.C. has a larger population than two U.S. states.
The document also refutes polls on the subject of potential juror prejudice conducted by the defense. Those arguments go on for several pages and address specific issues with the polls through supporting statistics and citations of relevant cases.
It adds that “the January 6-related jury trials that have already occurred have demonstrated the availability of a significant number of fair, impartial jurors in the D.C. venire.” The government includes the specific numbers of potential jurors found in the District of Columbia in similar cases.
The final response from October 6 addresses a defense request to limit the government from using a litany of different words and terms it deemed potentially inflammatory and prejudicial, including “mob,” “rioter,” “traitor,” and many others.
“The government should not be allowed to achieve a conviction through the deliberate provocation of bias in the jury,” that motion said.
“By their very nature, criminal charges involve an accusation that someone has wronged another person or has wronged society,” the prosecution counters. “Accordingly, such charges arouse emotion—and there is nothing improper about that.”
Here, the government should not be required to dilute its language and step gingerly around the defendant’s crimes. Contrary to the defendant’s insinuations, what took place on January 6, 2021, was in fact a riot involving rioters, and an attack on the United States Capitol, the government of the United States, and American democracy.Government opposition brief, USA vs. Richard Barnett, October 6
The prosecution requested that the court dismiss all of the defense’s September 22 motions. It also filed a notice of appearance adding Matthew M. Graves, U.S. Attorney, to the prosecution team.
Barnett is charged with: Obstruction of an Official Proceeding; Aiding and Abetting; Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon; Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon; Entering and Remaining in Certain Rooms in the Capitol Building; Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building; Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building; Theft of Government Property.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.